Political situation Great challenges for the government and society

Regierungsgebäude in Kolumbiens Hauptstadt Bogotá

Regierungsgebäude in Kolumbiens Hauptstadt Bogotá

Regierungsgebäude in Kolumbiens Hauptstadt Bogotá

The conflict in Colombia began in the 1960s. At the time, leftist rural peasant guerrilla groups took up arms to defend themselves against land theft and the extremely unequal distribution of land ownership. They were fighting against the Colombian military as well as paramilitary groups, which were often hired by large landowners.

In September 2016, the then Colombian government under President Juan Manuel Santos signed a historic peace agreement with the country's largest armed guerrilla group, the FARC. While the deal was rejected by a very narrow margin in a referendum, a revised agreement that was the product of further negotiations was adopted by both houses of parliament in November 2016.

Difficult transitional justice process

The implementation of the comprehensive peace deal, which also addresses the causes of the armed conflict, is an ambitious endeavour and requires not only strong political commitment on the part of the government and civil society but also financial resources that run into billions. So far, success has been patchy. While the security situation has improved significantly and the process of disarming former FARC fighters has been completed, governmental reintegration and development programmes have been progressing very slowly. The chapters of the peace deal on political participation and land reform have hardly been implemented at all so far.

The institutions to address the conflict have been set up (special courts, truth commission, special unit for the investigation of disappearances), but they get little political support from the government.

High level of violence

There continues to be a great deal of violence, which is directed, among others, against women and men who are active in community councils, human rights groups and trade unions, and against local leaders and journalists. This violence is putting pressure on the government, which has not sufficiently been able to set up state institutions to fill the power vacuum that emerged in rural regions after the withdrawal of the FARC.

No peace agreement has been concluded yet with the country's second-largest guerrilla group, the ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional). After the ELN claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack on a police academy in Bogotá in January 2019, the government suspended the negotiations with the group.

Drug control

Colombia is one of the biggest cocaine producers in the world. Both the guerrilla groups and the paramilitary groups generated large proportions of their income through the drug trade, which is closely connected with organised crime.

Colombia's government pursues a twofold strategy on drug control. It destroys coca fields, but it also runs economic and social programmes to encourage farmers in drug cultivation areas to voluntarily shift to other crops. However, in the past few years the coca cultivation area has increased significantly again.